Our testers get real excited when a new shoe comes out billed as a price point performance climbing shoe. As paying $200+ for climbing shoes becomes more acceptable, the lifelong dirtbags among us are afraid that one day they won't be able to afford their favorite sticky rubber weapons of route destruction. Therefore, the search for the best buy in climbing shoes is almost more important to some of us than the quest for the best overall shoe. Enter the Evolv X1. This is Evolv's new high-performance slipper with a single velcro closure strap, an aggressively downturned last, plenty of rubber on the uppers for toe hooking, and Trax SAS rubber for smearing. After bouldering in the Buttermilks and some lovely spring sport climbing in Bishop's Pine Creek, we were pleasantly surprised at the excellent balance of support and sensitivity offered by these $140 shoes. Are they Best Buy Award material? Close, but no cigar. The coveted Best Buy award stays with the better performing and more comfortable Butora Acro.
Evolv X1 ReviewPrice: $140 List | $139.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 4 resellers Pros: Sensitive, inexpensive
Cons: Difficult to get on high volume feet, hard to size correctly
Bottom line: These shoes are perfect for gym climbers and boulderers on a budget.
Upper: Synthratek VX
RELATED REVIEW: Best Rock Climbing Shoes for Men of 2018
Our Analysis and Test Results
These shoes are of the softer variety, geared towards gym rats and pebble wrestlers who need sensitivity and edging performance and are less likely to spend 45 minutes on some cotton mouth inducing runout slab. They are stiffer and more versatile than the bank account leveling $200 Scarpa Drago, but don't have the support and crack climbing abilities as some of our favorite sporty shoes, the La Sportiva Solutions.
Sized correctly, the X1s edge well, but the rubber is extremely soft and sticky, and some of our testers reported they felt the edge "rolled", a phenomenon we've experienced on some other Evolv models like the Shamans and the old Optimus Primes. They edge better than the super soft Scarpa Dragos and the clunky Black Diamond Momentums, but they can't touch the La Sportiva Genius, Solution or the Kataki when it comes to edging performance.
These shoes fit narrower than the La Sportiva Kataki, our Top Pick for Crack Climbing, so climbing hand size cracks in the X1 is a no-go, especially for wider footed climbers. The toe profile is delightfully low, allowing us to weasel into a few green camalot sized cracks and flares sometimes encountered in sport climbing. If you've got narrow feet and you downsize these shoes down too tight, you might get away with a few full pitches of crack climbing, but we don't recommend it.
Pocket climbing comes down to a shoe's edging ability combined with the shape of the toe. A pointy toe can fit into smaller, shallower pockets than some comfortable, symmetrical shaped shoe you'd use to climb El Cap. The X1 isn't too shabby in the pockets, but we preferred climbing pockets in a stiffer, better edging shoe like the Butora Acro, or the La Sportiva Solution.
These soft shoes are very sensitive, adding some versatility to such an aggressive shoe. If you haven't sized them painfully tight, you won't be totally out of luck when the climbing gets low angle and techy. They aren't as sensitive as the mega soft Scarpa Dragos, but we prefer a little more support for all the granite climbing in our Eastern Sierra testing zone. The Trax SAS rubber is super soft and sticking. Curiously, all the cat hair in our lead tester's house stuck to 4.2mm of rubber on the bottom of these shoes. We've never seen anything thing like this with climbing rubber.
Evolv's sizing is pretty wonky. Our lead tester is 9.5 street size, and he had to size up to 10.5 before he could even wrestle his foot into the X1s. They're low volume, so if you've got high arches, getting these things on is going to be a bit of fight even if you've sized them too big for performance edging. So, low volume, narrow feet will feel the most comfortable in these shoes.
These shoes are a good choice for bouldering and training. They are relatively inexpensive, and you can really log some miles in the gym while saving your more expensive shoes for sending where it matters. They are too soft for enduro slab-a-neering, but boulderers will appreciate their ability to squish onto micro holds. If you're a young buck and your feet seem to be growing faster than you can save up for a new pair of shoes, the X1s perform well, and you might have better luck shaking $140 out of your parents than 200 hundo for a pair of Genius.
At $140, these shoes are $15 less than the Best Buy award-winning Butora Acro. We've used the Acros extensively, and feel that their superior comfort and performance is worth more than an additional 15 bones, and it remains the Best Buy. However, the X1 is a high quality, well-constructed shoe with the aggressive shape all the kids are into these days, and costs $40-$60 less than similar offerings from Sportiva, Scarpa, and Five Ten.
We're happy to see climbing shoe manufacturers trying to increase performance without raising the price. We hope to see more shoes like the X1. These are great for gym climbing, and are a huge step up from cheap, entry-level climbing shoes like the Evolv Defy and the Black Diamond Momentum.
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Most recent review: June 20, 2018
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